CLEVELAND (WJW) — For the last 22 years, Fort Myers Beach was home for Mike Dearden.

“We had a great little town. Great little tourist town, bunch of wonderful communities,” shared Dearden. 

But tonight, Dearden is a thousand miles away from paradise and still in shock by all that he has lost. 

“We are just destroyed. Fort Myers, Florida. Southwest Florida is no more. It’s not what it used to be and never will again,” said Dearden. 

Dearden says his home was annihilated by Hurricane Ian; hit by a record-breaking storm surge that overwhelmed Southwest Florida. 

“My walls were buckled, and the roof caved in. I’ve got a photo that shows the water line that is three inches from the ceiling, three inches,” explained Dearden. 

WJW photo

As Dearden waited for his family to pick him up at Hopkins Airport on Sunday, a grocery bag full of what he had left sat right by his side. 

However, the material things lost were the last thing on his mind.

“I lost three friends I know already that are among the deceased from Hurricane Ian. Three of my friends are gone. My home is home, my cat is gone. I’ve got people down there trying to find her right now, she is my world,” said Dearden. 

Dearden believes he will one day return to Fort Myers Beach. 

“You move forward, it’s a once in a 100-year storm. You don’t let it beat you down, you can’t let it beat you down,” shared Dearden. 

But for now — he’s just thankful to be with family and is grateful to see another day.

“I’m thanking God that I am alive,” explained Dearden.